20 September 2023

Walker strengthens his grip on Goulburn Mayor’s role

| John Thistleton
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Re-elected Deputy Mayor of Goulburn Cr Steve Ruddell and Mayor Cr Peter Walker.

Re-elected Deputy Mayor of Goulburn Steve Ruddell and Mayor Peter Walker. Photo: Goulburn Mulwaree Council.

Mayor of Goulburn Peter Walker has been returned to the top role for another 12 months.

In an open ballot Cr Walker defeated former mayor Cr Bob Kirk six votes to three, increasing his following from the previous poll after Cr Daniel Strickland switched his support to the incumbent. Cr Steve Ruddell was returned as deputy mayor.

The mayoral candidates made separate pitches before the vote, Cr Walker emphasising the work of all nine councillors while Cr Kirk, who was the first to speak, underlined his community and State Government contacts.

Summarising his case, Cr Kirk said: “So let me finish by saying that my connections within the community tell me that my nomination of mayor reflects sentiments expressed by the public who seek a merit-based outcome from this election. I believe I am the right person to lead us through the remaining term of this council.”

Cr Walker later said, “I too have had a lot of people contact me and say, ‘Oh, you’re doing a good job’. And I say, ‘No, we are doing a good job.’’’

Both candidates raised the prospect of a harder pitch to the ratepayers of Goulburn in the coming term when the council will apply for a special rate variation, to raise rates higher than the State Government’s rate peg to renew roads, bridges, sporting fields, playgrounds and community facilities.

Cr Kirk said he wanted to return to the existing plans that would not involve large capital outlays, but would add to the liveability and satisfaction of residents – for example the Recreation Needs Strategy, Goulburn Cycling Strategy, the Ducks Lane Contribution Plan which had been in place for over 20 years but had not provided encouragement for employment creating commercial enterprises to establish there.

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He said the council needed to check on its Social Sustainability Plan, which included securing funding for emergency services for at risk women, children and families. Recently, 27 regional centres had received State Government funding for emergency shelter for women and children, but despite a clear lack of those facilities between Sydney and Canberra, Goulburn had missed out. “As mayor I would be using my position, my contacts, my strongest advocacy skills to ensure Goulburn is included in that program,” he said.

Cr Walker said the nine councillors had made good decisions by working together without too much argument and achieving projects including the Goulburn Performing Arts Centre, new swimming pool and sporting amenities, CBD enhancement and upgrades in the villages of Tallong and Marulan.

Having come through a state election that was volatile in the Goulburn Mulwaree area and facing challenges with the State Government, the council nonetheless had been able to secure extra funding, including $100,000 for a toilet block for Bungonia village.

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Cr Walker said the closure of Wakefield Park Raceway had probably fractured the council. “What I think is great now is we do have a new buyer, the council can take a bit of credit for that – all councillors I believe, because it is something we have all wanted in one way or another, but we could not come to a finality on the best outcome.”

Until its closure the raceway had been providing a valuable source of income for local businesses.

“The best outcome now is on the table and we cannot afford to miss out on – and pardon if I blast the figures – whether it is $12 million, $15 million, $18 million – we cannot afford to miss out on that opportunity of that money coming into our community.”

Other issues on the table included a new community centre, more sporting facilities upgrades, Marulan’s water and sewerage, and redeveloping Goulburn’s waste depot.

After his re-election Cr Walker said the nine councillors would return to the heavy-going issues with noses to the grindstone. “But I’m sure with the nine people representing this community we will get it right and we will act with the community’s interest at heart.”

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